Can we forever rely on the philanthropy of powerful women and men? The Beyond Zero Campaign is philanthropy writ large, the efforts of a powerful woman to provide "mobile clinics" for the use of pregnant women. The recent week's efforts by the Governor of Nairobi to remove, through the efforts of the Sonko Rescue Team, the mounds of rubbish festering on our streets and in some of our neighbourhoods is philanthropy writ large too. In both cases, a man and a woman have chosen to provide public services in their private capacities. In both cases, Government has abdicated its duty to citizens and its officials not been held to account for it.
If you own property in Nairobi City County, then it is inevitable that you pay rates to the County Government. If you are gainfully employed, formally or not, you likely pay income tax to the Government of Kenya. In both cases, you are a taxpayer but the taxes you pay have not translated into public services of reasonable quality. Indeed, in the case of the Beyond Zero Campaign, a sizeable chunk of your taxes was handed over to the Campaign. Irony, it seems, is not something Government could recognise if it cam and pinched its bottom.
Hundreds of billions of shillings are collected in each year by Government through various forms of taxes. Tens of billions of these shillings are wasted or stolen in each year. The existence of "powerful" agencies such as the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission or the Auditor-General or the establishment and operationalisation of accounting systems such as IFMIS seem not to have reduced the waste or the theft. No less an authority than the Head of Government has admitted that at least one-third of the national revenue is wasted or stolen.
It is almost two weeks since we elected new Governors and re-elected the President. (The petition is a formality that no one seriously expects to reverse the verdict of the IEBC.) In the waning days of the general election, the discourse on the waste and theft of the national revenue only animated a few of the candidates. Whether the successful candidates spoke of these things or not, it is time we demanded an end to philanthropy when it comes to public services such as healthcare or sanitation. As taxpayers, we have a right to have our taxes spent in providing these services and to hold to account the public officials who allow the national revenue to be wasted, stolen or both. We have a right to demand that the anti-corruption watchdog and the Auditor-General outline their efforts to reduce waste and eliminate theft, or else seek gainful employment in the mediocre world of television political pundits or FM radio deejaying. Be that as it may, though, at national level, the buck stops with the president and at county level, it stops with the governor.
We should not longer accept the "I have done my part" argument that has been used in the past to shirk ultimate responsibility. As Head of Government -- both national and county -- the President has no choice but to finally grasp the nettle that is the waste and theft of our national revenue. It is his responsibility to ensure that constitutional promises -- such as good healthcare and acceptable public sanitation -- are not held hostage to the bright lights of private philanthropy but are realised out of the proper husbandry of the national revenue and the merciless punishment of the wasteful and quick-fingered. Where the President leads, the governors shall follow. If he is politically and administratively mendacious, so will they be. If he is bold and leads by example, ensuring that he is a good steward of public funds and the implacable enemy of wastrels and thieves, so too shall the governors be. Legacies are not just seen in monuments such as railways and highways; they are also seen in character. Philanthropy or probity: in five years, we will know.